All majors are the sameΒΆ

Had an interesting conversation with my roomate Mike last night. It helped me clarify something I have always understood, but never found a good way to say. This is probably going to be another failed attempt, but here goes.

All majors in college are generally the same. You are learning the same ideas in a different context. Mike is writing ‘something’, using changing channels on a television to represent changing of ideas. He is playing with all of the points of view, from first to third, and then on to ‘fourth’ and fifth as well. In talking about the style that he is writing I began to look at it through my computer science viewpoint on things. Viewing the writing in levels of abstractions, arranged in a hierarchy, starting from the first person point of view on the bottom and working up.

This got me thinking about the top level of both of our majors. It is generally assumed that English and Computer Science majors are about as far apart on the spectrum of brain workings as you can get, but not the way I see it. My take on writing is that it is one level above computers in the abstract hierarchy of everything. A programming language and a spoken language perform the same operation, but the programming language is limited by hardware. The English language is the programming language of our brain, and it offers the utmost flexibility. You can do anything with words and ideas (thanks metaphor). Computers are one way of limiting that excellent flexibility.

Good design embraces constraints, and the technical constraints provided by a computer allow me a frame of reference. I embrace the computer because of its technical nature. It is the closest thing that humans are gotten to constructing an artificial brain. AI being a huge area of study in computers. So computer science is simply learning to think like a computer. The programming language that you use to program a computer is also how you think about a computer. An analogy in spoken language: there are ideas in German that can’t be expressed in English. The constraint of language doesn’t allow one to conceptualize some part of that idea.

The brain is the hardware that English majors write for. The computer is my hardware. We are using the same ideas just applied through a different lens.

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Published 2008-03-14

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